Time come for us to focus on who made our race greatFriday, July 17, 2020
West Indies cricket legend Michael Holding recently made an impromptu but impassioned statement regarding race relations which was chock-full of important truths. Holding rightly notes that the accomplishments of black people are little known, which is not surprising; it is the victor that tells the story.
If one enters a library in Britain the story of the war with the Americans will be titled 'The American Revolution'. Hop into a library in the US and go to the section dealing with the same subject and those books will be more nobly titled, 'The War of American Independence'.
It is one of history's sad ironies that black people are mainly remembered for their condition as slaves, even when, before, during, and after that event, blacks have been distinguishing themselves. Long before slavery was abolished it was an African slave in Boston who saved generations from the deadly smallpox. The slave was Onesimus. People in Boston were dropping like flies. He went to his master with an unlikely story — that he could provide a solution to the smallpox problem. He used the pus from an infected person and put it in a wound of another. The person was effectively immunised. A doctor was called. He tried this crude experiment on 242 Bostonians — many whites would not get involved in an experiment initiated by a slave. Only six died. It was 70 years later that a British doctor, Edward Jenner, tried a similar method and got the credit.
I was 11 years old, attending York Castle High School, and one day I scored 1/2 out of 10 on a maths test. My teacher, “Mr Coke”, wrote, in red: “Improving”. I managed to avoid him for three days until I bumped right into him. He stood blocking my path, opened his eyes wide, and said, “How you going live without maths, boy?” I never improved. But I did learn that maths is more than arithmetic, algebra or geometry, and much more than trigonometry, statistics and calculus, together. It may well be the most valuable discipline of learning. I later discovered, to my chagrin, that it was required for physics, chemistry, engineering, and just about everything else. The most ancient mathematical texts available are from Iraq and Egypt, Plimpton 322, Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, and Moscow Mathematical Papyrus. Long before there was anything in Europe to talk about, this part of Africa was the cradle of learning.
The black Moors invaded Spain in 711. A European scholar sympathetic to the Spaniards described the invasion thus: “The reins of their horses were as fire, their faces black as pitch, their eyes shone like burning candles, their horses were as swift as leopards, and the riders fiercer than a wolf in a sheepfold at nights. The Spaniards were broken in an hour, quicker than tongue can tell. Oh, luckless Spain.” But was Spain luckless? It was the Moors who civilised Spain and Europe, eventually. They ruled Spain for 800 years. Before them their captives were illiterate. It was they who introduced universal education and new scientific techniques to Spain. These included astronomy, chemistry, physics, mathematics, geography, and philosophy.
In Christian Europe, 99 per cent of the population was illiterate, even kings could neither read nor write. At that time there were only two universities in all of Europe. The Moors had 17 great universities. In the 10th and 11th centuries public libraries in Europe were non-existent. Moorish Spain could boast more than 70. One in Cordova housed 600,000 manuscripts.
Over 4,000 Arabic words and Arabic derived phrases have been absorbed into the Spanish language. Words beginning with “al”; for example, like algebra, alkaline and alcohol.
The guitar was just one of the instruments they introduced into Europe. They introduced sophisticated dining; breaking meals into separate courses starting with soup and ending with desserts.
They introduced paper and a host of new agricultural crops. They lived in sumptuous palaces, while the monarchs of Germany, France and England lived in big barns with no windows or chimneys — just a hole in the wall to exit smoke. One Moorish palace, Alhambra, is one of Spain's architectural masterpieces. It is now a world heritage site. The Great Mosque of Cordoba is still one of the great architectural wonders of the world.
Perhaps one of the greatest gifts given to Europe by the Moors is the value of personal hygiene. Europe started to bathe.
At its height, Cordoba was the heart of the Moorish territory of Spain and was the most modern city in Europe. Streets were well paved with raised sidewalks for pedestrians. At nights 10 miles of streets were illuminated by lamps. Did I mention that this was hundreds of years before there was a paved street in Paris, or a street lamp in London?
There are numerous inventions by black people. Some are: auto gear shift, America's first clock, auto elevator doors, blood bank, clothes dryer, electric lamp, folding chairs, gas mask, golf tee, home security system, ice cream scoop, ironing board, lawn mower, lawn sprinkler, mail box, modern lock, modern toilet, mop, pacemaker, potato chips, pencil sharpeners, suspenders, thermostat, touch tone phone, traffic light, portable fax, caller ID, call waiting, fibre optic cable, carbon filament for light bulbs, air-conditioning unit, IBM computers, burglar-proof cash registers, chemical air filters, world's first super computer capable of performing 3.1 billion calculations per second.
This above list is far from complete. In fact, no list would be complete without the accomplishments of George Washington Carver. Born a sickly slave, and 'box bout' from place to place. He began formal education at age 12 and got a scholarship to college. He was turned back at the door as they said they did not know he was black. He is now credited with more than 300 inventions using peanuts and potatoes. He was able to address US Congress, although most refused to listen to a black man until his accomplishments forced them to listen. He was eventually the first black student and faculty member of Iowa State University.
There is a condition I choose to describe as race-related stress. It is affecting the physical, psychological, and social well-being of black people. It is exacerbated by profound differences between black and white adults in their views about racial discrimination, barriers to black progress, and prospects for change. Many blacks, however, seem not to understand their condition or have decided to accept it. Others, still, are determined to solve the problem by using various social, chemical, and economic means to 'whiten' themselves, thereby gaining 'acceptance' into that group.
An African man said recently: “If God had given black women beards, they would put extensions on them.” Who will deliver our beautiful women from their madness? We brought prosperity and civilised living to Europe. Yet, today, woe betide us if we don't dress like them for any formal function. And woe will still betide us if this climate change sun is baking us in these suits and ties. We have to wear the suit and tie to feel important — and to be taken seriously, too.
We are, literally, running away from ourselves. Young blacks — who have educated themselves about their condition — have realised that the days of peaceful demonstrations, marching in the broiling sun singing “We shall overcome”, and returning home to soak their burning bunions, is of marginal utility. The advocates of that passive postulation are talking to the wrong generation. If you step on their feet they are going to push you off. The days of 'meetings' and 'bipartisan' conferences are over. The present ruling class ignores this warning to their grave peril.
How did we get here? Well, when we should have been learning these critical pieces of our history, we were given books by these same Europeans telling us that the cow jumped over the moon. And we had to buy those books.
In just a few years from now a significant demographic shift will take place in the United States. The number of “coloured people” will be greater than white America. They are scared. It is not lost on them that they have not been exactly hospitable to black Americans. They are scared. Decades ago they started to address this matter with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). They can't do it that way any more. So the KKK have become the police. And we have George Floyd. There has been in that country a conscious, deliberate, and systemic process by whites to mould black people into functional inferiors. It is working.
The time has come for us to focus more fully on those that made our race great. It is of paramount importance that we circulate these stories regularly in order to better understand our history through a proper lens that honours the work of our ancestors. If we don't, we will never rise again.
Glenn Tucker, MBA, is an educator and a sociologist. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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